I must caveat this blog with the statement that I am not a trained psychologist in any way. However, while I am a tongue-in-cheek footwear blogger, experience tells me that what I have written here rings true.
My psychology of shoes experience began with a pair of very expensive black, patent high heels. When I tried them on in the shop and walked around on their super soft carpet, I thought they were gorgeous. They are gorgeous but real life does not happen on soft carpets and you generally wear shoes for longer than a few minutes. I also thought they would be comfortable because of the price tag.
I wanted these shoes to mark a new era of high heel wearing. I wanted them to make me feel more confident in social and corporate situations. They sure looked good and made me four inches taller, but the reality was that they slipped off my heels, squashed my toes and I could barely walk in them… especially on slippery tiled floors. I was gutted. My should-be go-to mood-boosting shoes were not the dream footwear I thought I had invested in.
To me, the key to the psychology of shoes is how you move in them. I like a quick, long, a little bit jaunty, stride. I could not walk that way in my new shoes. It’s not a heel thing; I’m all good in my other heels. Tottering is just not my style! In contrast, a former client of mine used to wear leather-soled Oxfords that would clip smartly along the corridors as he walked. You could hear him coming; it was like an audio introduction before he entered the room! It was his style and he oozed corporate confidence.
Second is comfort. Pinched toes and rubbing heels will overtake any confidence you may have felt due to the look of a shoe. Blisters can be small, but they hurt like hell and can be a real distraction. To that end, I feel super comfortable and therefore confident in my trainers and my chunky boots.
The psychology of shoes is not just about how the wearer feels but also how people perceive you. Researchers at the University of Kansas found that character assessments based on shoes were surprisingly accurate. Students looked at images of 200 peoples’ shoes and guessed psychological profiles. A more relaxed and laid-back person had worn-in shoes and pristine shoes indicated someone more likely concerned with appearance and, interestingly, prone to attachment anxiety or a fear of abandonment.
Another study found that women in high heels were judged as more attractive than those in flats… and there’s me loving my trainers!
However, if you feel more confident in your footwear, I believe more people will see you as confident and, potentially, more attractive. I also believe that well-polished, smart shoes say a lot in the office and the boardroom. I recently took a few colleagues to task about their footwear. As salesmen, they needed to look the part and care for their selected shoes or boots to set them apart from their competitors.
But it’s not all about being the most confident guy or gal in the room. Sometimes you want to be seen as a relaxed, off-duty human being. Footwear can signpost this very clearly. A deck shoe, moccasin or trainer should signify downtime while a jewelled court shoe or black patent Oxford shouts party time!
As I said, I am not an expert, but it does get you thinking about how you feel in shoes and how you want others to perceive you. Just because they are at ground level, does not mean they cannot be seen.
A decent pair of well-fitting shoes should make you feel taller even if they do not have any heels. The photos with this blog depict people I know. Admittedly, they are all very tall, but they also come with poise and presence that I feel has been enhanced by their choice of footwear.
Take it from someone who has learned the hard way, the wrong shoe will have the reverse psychological affect. Sure, go for style but make sure you can walk the way you want to and to do not suffer any pain along the away. Then throw your shoulders back and stride (in my case) out into the unknown!
What’s your go-to confidence boosting shoe? Let me know in the comments section below.